A British mental health blogger and accomplished yachtswoman died at a secure psychiatric facility after she ingested a poisonous substance she bought from Russia — telling staff it was protein powder.
Beth Matthews, 26, was not supposed to open her mail at The Priory Cheadle Royal hospital in 2022 but did so after “inconsistencies” in her care, an inquest was told Monday, the Manchester Evening News reported.
Police coroner’s officer Claire Smith said Matthews’ phone revealed an order of the substance from Russia, as well as several visits to online forums discussing suicide methods.
The Cornwall woman — who competed in the Fastnet yacht race when she was just 15 years old — died March 21, 2022, while under the supervision of the psychiatric hospital’s staff.
She was being treated in a secure ward for a personality disorder after being detained under the Mental Health Act for “specialist therapy,” the Times of London reported.
Smith told the inquest at Stockport Coroner’s Court that police determined that Matthews ordered the unidentified substance herself and that there was no criminality involved in her death, the Evening News said.
Matthews collapsed after opening the package that she told the staff contained protein powder. She suffered cardiac arrest and was rushed to Wythenshawe Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to the report.
The woman had frequently accessed a website with thousands of threads discussing suicide methods, one of which involved swallowing a poisonous substance that she “had attempted to purchase from a number of sources,” Smith said, the BBC reported.
David Watts, The Priory’s head of risk and safety, said it was “impossible” to monitor patients’ web browsing on cellphones — and explained that while the unit’s Wi-Fi has a firewall, patients can access some websites via their 4G and 5G connections, which staff can’t control, the Manchester paper said.
Jurors were told, however, that Matthews was not supposed to be able to open her own mail.
Suzanne Barnard, The Priory’s investigations chief, said there had been an “inconsistent approach” to the delivery of Matthews’ care plan — with some staffers allowing her to open her mail while others died it for her.
She said there had been a “clear” instruction in the care plan that the woman should not open her mail.
“I could not find any evidence that there were other areas the care plan had not been followed,” Barnard reportedly said.
Dr. Sumanta Gupta, a consultant psychiatrist at the hospital, told the inquest he had not been informed of a claim Matthews made to the staff that it was “already done now” after a conversation about “things you can purchase that do the job.”
Gupta said that if he had known he would have launched an immediate review of her care plan.
Assistant Coroner Andrew Bridgman told the jury that Matthews had “ingested a substance that came through the post, quite quickly became unwell [and] was taken urgently to hospital where she sadly died,” the Times of London reported.
Paramedic Kate Barnes said in a statement said that when she arrived, staffers told her that Matthews “had a parcel delivered to the unit, which she opened in front of them and managed to consume,” according to the outlet.
Barnes said she was told that patients were allowed to open their mail if supervised by staff.
The inquest heard that Matthews had suffered from mental health issues from an early age and was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, the Times of London reported.
She was reportedly severely issued in a failed suicide attempt after jumping from a bridge in April 2019, according to the Manchester Evening News.
In a statement read during the hearing, Matthews’ mother, Jane, said her daughter was “an incredible character” who was “bright and vivacious” and “would light up the lives” of everyone she came across.
Matthews was “caring, intelligent and articulate,” loved sports and excelled at sailing.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
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